New England Patriots Offensive Line Key to Victory over Seattle Seahawks in 2015 Super Bowl


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws the ball over Indianapolis Colts defensive end Arthur Jones (97) during the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2015 Super Bowl on the horizon and the media circus finally switching from “witch-hunt” to “the actual game going to be played on the field” it is time to take another look at the match-ups that will be key on Sunday as the NFC representative and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots. The Seahawks are looking to be the first team to repeat as champions since Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady pulled the trick a decade ago.


After having already looked at three key questions for the Super Bowl match-up earlier in the week, the idea of one of the top quarterbacks and the most dynamic tight end in the NFL facing the number one defense in the league. The Patriots have already switched their attack in the playoffs going from an all-pass attack against Baltimore to a heavy run game plan against the Colts in the AFC Championship game. Either way, the offensive line is one of the key performers in making space for running backs or giving quarterback Tom Brady time to throw the ball against the “Legion of Boom” on Sunday in the Super Bowl.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots used running back LeGarrette Blount as their big bruising back against Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game after he saw the field for just 15 snaps and rushed just three times for one yard against the Ravens defense. Against Indianapolis, Blount rushed 30 times for 148 yards and a Marshawn Lynch like 89 yards after contact and forced 7 missed tackles and ran in three touchdowns (all stats from unless otherwise noted). Credit the offensive line for making space against the light Indianapolis front as Blount found space to cut-back and holes to burst through inside and outside, going left or going right.


Against the Ravens in the divisional playoff round, the Patriots faced a Baltimore Ravens defense featuring premier edge-rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as well as interior rushers Timmy Jernigan and Haloti Ngata and the versatile Pernell McPhee. Despite injuries forcing the Patriots to re-shuffle the offensive line, the Patriots front five (or front four depending on which “deceptive” alignment they were in) kept Brady upright and allowing only 15 of 53 dropbacks to have pressure on Brady allowing him to throw for 367 yards and three touchdowns.


January 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril (56) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second half in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Whether the Patriots try to run the ball or attack through the air, a no-huddle-based game-plan will help cut down on Seattle’s substitutions–especially on the defensive line–and allow New England to wear down the Seahawks big guys up front. Last year in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks sent wave after wave of big, penetrating pass rushers through the Denver offensive line with Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril the primary disruptive forces. However, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane also stepped in to help bring the Broncos attack to a halt.


This season, injuries and free agent defections have pushed Bennett out to the edge which weakens the interior pass rush. Mebane is on injured reserve as well as second-year interior force Jordan Hill who had 5.5 sacks in six games before going on injured reserve at the end of the regular season. Clemons, McDonald, and Bryant moved on after the Super Bowl for bigger paychecks in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.


Last week against Green Bay, the Packers offensive line kept the Seattle pass rush far from quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the Seattle pass rush had a sack but just one quarterback hit, and only six pressures despite 42 passing plays called by the Packers. That was in stark contrast to the last three games of the season against the weak offenses of division rivals San Francisco, Arizona, and St. Louis. In the divisional playoff game Seattle did get pressure on Cam Newton–primarily from Avril and Irvin–against the weak Carolina offensive line–especially tackles Byron Bell and Mike Remmers.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tackle Nate Solder (77) catches a pass from quarterback Tom Brady (12) and runs for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

New England tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer had some struggles at times during the season, but both are more than capable pass blockers. The two titanic tackles ranked sixth and eighth in the NFL in’s Offensive Tackle Pass Blocking Efficiency (subscription required) with Vollmer at 96.2% and Solder at 96.1% (rankings for regular starters on the offensive line–playing three-quarters of their teams’ snaps. Pass Blocking Efficiency measures pressure allowed on a per snap basis with weighting towards sacks allowed). In the playoffs, Solder has allowed one sack and four pressures in 92 pass blocking snaps (one pass play he was not blocking but hauling in a 16-yard touchdown pass). Vollmer has allowed no sacks and just three pressures in 92 pass blocking snaps in the playoffs.


The interior of the offensive line has question marks as Ryan Wendell had to move to center and Josh Kline stepped in at right guard when center Bryan Stork injured his knee against Baltimore in the divisional playoff round. The return to health of left guard Dan Connolly has been key for the improved play inside and Stork is still questionable but has a chance of playing in the Super Bowl.


Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots guard Josh Kline (67), center Bryan Stork (66) and guard Ryan Wendell (62) warm up before the start of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle has past-his-prime veteran Kevin Williams and run-stuffer Tony McDaniel taking most of the snaps inside. The Seahawks bring on former Wisconsin undersized pass rusher O’Brien Schofield and tall but not explosive Demarcus Dobbs. In the AFC Championship game the Seahawks had to turn to former Patriot and a 2008 seventh round draft pick of the Detroit Lions Landon Cohen to step in after he had been working as a valet parking cars after being out of the league the entire season.


The Seahawks defense gave up 362 yards to Carolina and has allowed over 130 yards rushing to both opponents in the playoffs so far after allowing just six opponents to top 100 yards rushing during the regular season. If the Patriots can force the Seahawks to have to start blitzing their linebackers and safeties to try and generate pressure, they could open up a number of big plays in the passing game on crossing routes and finding vacated areas in the zone defense with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell.


If the New England offensive line makes room for Blount to explode through to the second level and keeps the Seattle pass rush off of Brady and allows him to go through his progressions in a clean pocket it could be a long day for the Seahawks defenders. Few teams have the identity on offense to present so many match-up options as the New England defense does, and the offensive line against the Seattle front is the key to making the offense click in the Super Bowl for the Patriots.